From the patch to the pile: Don’t pitch your pumpkin. Turn it into something better.

Seedleaf has been gardening in community since our founding in 2007. In 2009, recognizing a need to give back to the soil, we began composting as well. As an experiment, we agreed to take prep waste and coffee grounds from Third Street Stuff, a coffee shop located just two blocks from the London Ferrill Community Garden. Staff and volunteers helped move and rinse the buckets, and turned the compost piles, and the Compost Partners pickup service was born. This service has grown a ton (literally) over the past 10 years. Thanks to support from the city’s Division of Waste Management, we are currently picking up pre-consumer kitchen prep waste from 33-35 area restaurants each week. Our friends at Habitat for Humanity turn our piles each month with their front-end loader, and the finished product is a wonderful soil amendment made possible by this community’s tireless effort.

In late 2018, Seedleaf expanded this compost pickup service to residents. The Compost Carpool allows Fayette County residents a chance to kick a dent in their solid waste stream by working with Seedleaf to have a five-gallon bucket picked up from their home on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. Seventy households are currently subscribed to the service. Compost Coordinator Cee Byrd (cee@seedleaf.org) has been busy expanding the service and organizing the overall process. Readers can sign up today by visiting seedleaf.org.

This year, in addition to the Compost Carpool, Seedleaf is offering to pick up pumpkins from households for $3 per pumpkin. Each year our country landfills thousands of pounds of pumpkins. This material does not need to end up rotting and releasing methane in a landfill; it can be repurposed for our gardens in the coming seasons. Contact cee@seedleaf.org to schedule your Pumpkin Pickup the week of Nov. 4.

Lexingtonians should know that all this composting is having an important effect. Each year, Seedleaf redirects over 50,000 gallons of material away from our landfills and back into area gardens. We are rebuilding our soils, making gardens and green spaces that can absorb significantly more rainwater runoff than can soils with less compost, less organic matter. This also has a greenhouse gas benefit. Through our compost efforts, Seedleaf prevented 265.77 tons of methane from entering the atmosphere in 2018, and has already prevented 271.46 in 2019.

And for area gardeners, we are making our finished compost available for $1/gallon (minimum five- gallon order) for area gardeners. Fall is a great time to fertilize a garden. The home and restaurant pickup services, and the finished compost deliveries, are all part of Seedleaf’s efforts to attain financial sustainability. You can help by taking us up on one of these services, or visiting seedleaf.org to learn more about our work, and the the work we are doing to nourish communities by growing and sharing food in our 13 free u-pick community gardens.

Ryan Koch is the executive director of Seedleaf.